Tuesday, August 20, 2013

In one way, Wii Mini and PS3 Super Slim are superior to all other current-gen and next-gen consoles

Wii Mini with disc drive open
The downgraded version of the console has one redeeming feature...but it's still not worth buying.

The Wii Mini is widely considered to be one of the worst console redesigns in gaming history. It's not backwards compatible with GameCube games and peripherals; it can't access the Internet, making it impossible to download Virtual Console games or WiiWare titles; it only has AV output...the system's inferior in every way to the original model of the Wii.

Well, almost every way. The Wii Mini features a top-loading disc drive, something no other console has boasted since Nintendo's own GameCube. While it's not as high tech, there are a lot of benefits to this type of drive. Sony's recent redesign of their current-gen console, the PS3 Super Slim, also features a top-loading drive, and it's definitely a change for the better.

The Wii U, on the other hand, features a slot-loading drive like the original Wii and older PS3 models. As you will see, the method used by the Wii Mini and PS3 Super Slim for loading discs is superior to those used by every other current and next-gen console for a number of reasons.

Less moving parts = less chance of breakdown

PS3 Super Slim with disc drive open
The PS3 Super Slim has the right idea. (Image credit: Engadget)

Slot-loading and tray-loading drives feature more moving parts than top-loading drives, and the more moving parts a machine has, the greater the odds are that something will break. Do an internet search for "broken Xbox 360 tray," or "broken PS3 disc drive," or "broken Wii disc drive" and thousands upon thousands of results come up. It's also quite common for discs to get stuck in them, which can be very frustrating to deal with. These types of drives are good for repair stores, bad for gamers.

With a top-loading drive, the user loads the games themselves. It's very low-tech but it works, and it's far more reliable. Less moving parts means there's a lower chance that something will go wrong.

Easy to get dust out

GameCube with disc drive open
Pretty easy to get dust out of this console.

No matter what you do, dust is going to build up inside your disc drive, which can cause problems. Debris on a spinning disc can scratch the lens, making it necessary to buy a replacement, while dust that builds up on the reading lens can make contact with the disc and put circular scratches in it.

If you have an Xbox 360, PS3 or Wii with a dirty lens, you can try to clean it yourself using a cleaning kit, but they're kind of a difficult to use since you can't see the lens you're trying to clean. And on top of that, they really don't work all that well. If you check out some Wii cleaning kit reviews on sites like Amazon you'll see that the reviews are very mixed. The bottom line is, if you really want a clean lens for any of these consoles, you or someone else will need to open up the casing to get at it (preferably a professional). All of the next-gen consoles use slot-loading drives, which means this will continue to be problem.

With a top-loading drive, you just open it up and use a microfiber towel to pick up dust particles before they cause issues. On top of that, the lens can be reached easily since it's right there in plain sight. As long as you remember to keep the cover closed when not in use, dust shouldn't be a problem. (Note: cleaning the lens yourself is not advised unless you know what you're doing. You will probably cause more harm than good).

They don't automatically load objects that get too close

Wii console and Remote standing next to PS3 consoles with controller
Kids + loose change + slot-loading drives = headaches

Slot-loading drives try to load discs themselves, which sounds cool but really isn't. If you do an internet search for "coins in PS3" or "coins in Wii," you will see plenty of gamers reporting that their kids or someone else's stuck loose change into their console and they can't get them out. I've even seen forum posts by people asking how to get credit cards out of their consoles. Unfortunately, the Wii U, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 all have slot-loading drives, ensuring that this problem will continue into the next-gen as well.

With a top-loading drive, you don't need to worry about this. If a kid puts coins, credit cards, paper clips, etc. in your GameCube, Wii Mini or PS3 Super Slim, you can easily take them out. Not an issue.

Cheaper to manufacture

Many sites have stated that Nintendo went with a top-loading drive for the Wii Mini as a cost saving measure. Likewise, others say that Sony did the same with the PS3 Super Slim for the same reason. This is definitely better for the manufacturer, but theoretically it should mean a lower retail price which would benefit the consumer as well. Then again, the primary goal of corporations is to make money, which means they might not try to pass the savings onto the public. Still, it's something to think about.

Conclusion: Top-loading drives are not high tech, but they're more reliable.

White Wii U console, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One standing next to each other
For better or worse, slot-loading drives are here to stay.

Slot-loading and tray-loading drives are the dominant disc-loading mechanisms of modern consumer electronics, but they have their fair share of problems. It would be interesting to know if the big three console manufacturers make profits or take losses from repairing broken disc drives. Repairing consoles covered by warranty probably costs them dearly, while repairing ones that break down after their warranties has expired would most likely give them at least a small profit.

While it wouldn't make sense to give all devices a top-loading drive, it does make sense to use them in video game consoles. If I saw two different models of the same console that had identical features and one had a top-loading drive while the other didn't, I'd go with the top-loader for all of the reasons stated above.

Still, don't buy the Wii Mini

Wii Mini console with red Remote and Nunchuk
Do not buy this console.

As much as I've praised the benefits of top-loading drives, the Wii Mini is a joke for all of the reasons laid out in the opening paragraph. And on top of that, it doesn't really live up to its name. As for whether or not the PS3 Super Slim is worth buying, that's a tougher call to make. As always, do your homework.


  1. Amusing article. And I suppose for the most part it's true. I think they use slot drives (like every device is doing these days, well my Samsung blu-ray drive does, purely for aesthetic reasons. It looks cool, so should sell more..
    And one other reason I think is that, many devices in this day and age tend to be neatly slotted into a cabinet cavity that doesn't offer the head room for top loading of discs.
    And a self loading drive is simply more convenient. And convenience is the number one factor we're being sold with nigh on every single product and technological advancement in the world.

    1. Hi Colin,

      Thanks for the compliments. I try to be amusing whenever possible.

      I think you're absolutely right. Slot-loading and tray-loading drives are definitely more pleasing to look at, and the higher tech they employ gives them that "cool" factor. Plus, if you're tight on space and need everything to fit into an entertainment center, auto-loaders are the way to go since they don't need much room.

      Each type of drive has its pros and cons, and I suppose I'm probably in the minority. I don't really mind the auto-loaders all that much, and I've gotten used to them, but I thought this would be a good topic to write about since I haven't really seen anyone else address it. I enjoyed writing this article, and I'm glad you appreciated it.

      Thanks for visiting.

  2. A local shop has two of these sitting on the shelf - they will probably be there for a long time - and I'm tempted to pick one up, just in case they do manage to become rare.

    On topic, I love top loading consoles and would definitely think about replacing my Wii with one of these. Only after transferring everything over to a Wii U, of course.

    1. Hi Parko,

      I don't know how rare they'll be, or whether they'll be worth much in the future. I suppose they might be a good collector's item, but I'm not really an authority on that sort of thing.

      I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who prefers the old fashioned top-loaders. When I first heard about the Wii Mini and saw the top-loading drive, I thought, "Hey, that's kind of cool." But after finding out about all the missing functionality, I pretty much lost all interest in it. Kind of an odd console, really.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. The PS3 does have several features that make it preferable to the Wii gaming device. As you pointed out, the Wii was developed as an alternative to the devices that existed before. It is attractive to hardcore gamers. It also appeals to people who traditionally would not want to sit still and play a game on a device that you can hold in your hands. The Wii allows you to move around and that's what I like about it. It also lets all members of the family get involved.

    Personally, the fact that PS3 has the capability for letting families participate in other forms of entertainments, such as looking at pictures, makes it good. However it doesn't make it a lot more preferable than the Wii, if your main aim is to play games.

  4. You have said totally true, I highly agree with you that in one way, Wii Mini and PS3 Super Slim are superior to all other current-gen and next-gen consoles. Thanks for providing up this article here with vital points that we have to know. :)


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